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Virtual Talmud

Haman, Anti-Semitism, and the Internet

It has been said that if you say something often enough and emphatically enough, more and more people will believe it. Something that at first may seem obviously ridiculous with repetition becomes accepted fact. That is why Holocaust deniers are placing their works in college libraries so that future students will come to question the historical fact of the Holocaust. That is also why purveyors of hate are having a field day with an Internet that provides unlimited and immediate access to spread all different forms of hate, particularly anti-Semitism.
Though cloaked in modern technology, the problem of spreading lies about one group of people to stimulate hatred and violence against them is probably as old as human kind. It is a crucial element in the Book of Esther we will read next Thursday night on Purim. The story recounts how the evil vizier Haman sought to destroy all the Jews in the Persian Empire because he was insulted that the Jew Mordecai would not bow down to him. The Jews are saved when King Ahashverus’ queen, Esther, who had hidden her identity as a Jew and Mordecai’s relative, reveals she is Jewish and begs the king to save her life and the lives of her people.


What is interesting is how Haman translates an individual experience (of Mordecai refusing to obey the king’s order to bow down to him) into a plot worthy of Osama bin Laden. He cleverly tells the king that there are a group of people who do not obey the king’s laws. They are scattered throughout the kingdom (read: presenting a dangerous fifth column or potential rebellious force). In a kingdom composed of various ethnic groups, a kingdom in which the peace of the realm was dependent upon the smooth cooperation of these ethnic groups in the Persian administrative system, this was quite a charge. Haman adds, almost as an aside, that if the Jews are eliminated, their possessions would fall to the crown. Not a bad way to pad one’s coffers.
We can understand Haman: he is sick. The affront to his ego becomes pathological. What is harder to understand is that, according to the Book of Esther, over 75,000 average Persians across the empire rise up to kill the Jews on the set day, even after Esther reveals herself as a Jew and the king issues a new decree that the Jews can defend themselves. Many Persians flock to the Jews, but many others actively seek to harm them. The only answer I find reasonable is that, in distributing the king’s initial decree to kill the Jews, Haman included the very lies that convinced the king to slaughter every Jewish man woman and child in the first place. In other words, the attackers were motivated by the dissemination of anti-Semitic diatribes. Imagine the numbers that would have been involved if Haman had had access to the Internet!
That is why anti-Semitism on the internet should concern us. That is why organizations like the ADL and the Israel Project need funders who can make smart internet resources and training available to our college youth and young adults. That is also why we cannot stand idly by, but must join the struggle as modern Esthers: because lies that are not exposed as lies come to be believed as truth.

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Seamus MacNemi

posted March 14, 2008 at 1:04 pm

So goes the saying that it takes only one bad apple to spoil the barrel. Fear and ignorance are the source of all hatreds. Where these are allowed to persist all of humanity suffers, not just Jews.
Those who sit complacently and do nothing are as guilty as the hand that wields the sword.

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Alex Nodopaka

posted March 15, 2008 at 12:10 pm

To be named the chosen people is to sit at the table of Damocles. It is an honor any time. That’s how advertizing works… by endless repeating.

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Samuel Simon

posted March 15, 2008 at 2:29 pm

I am a minister in the denomination known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). My father was an Orthodix Jew and my mother a Christian. Although I am a Christian minister, I am very proud of my Jewish heritage, and do what I can to stand for Israel. I live in the Rio Grand valley (Edinburg, Texas, to be exact), and with all the attention on the issues concerning the Mexican border, I wonder what I can do to help dispel the growing anti-Semitism in our nation.

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Alejandro Reyes,II

posted March 16, 2008 at 12:09 am

As my father once told me,”The Internet is NOT gospel!” and everything that is posted on the internet needs to be discerned with critical and lateral thinking.As my sister once told me,”Don’t believe everything you read!” and as one German friend of mine once said 20 years ago,”Computers can’t lie,but the people who put false information in them can!”. Antisemitism predates the internet, but the internet is a double-edge sword and just as evil people may post their propaganda online,we can fight back online with the truth!

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posted March 16, 2008 at 11:07 am

1/ According to Judaism Haman is not ‘sick’. ‘Sick’ implies a biological cause, and with the right pill/Dr Phil he would be leading a singsong at the next NCSY event.
In Judaism Haman is evil not ‘sick’. I would have thought that this is what is taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary, but I guess I was wrong.
2/ Reading to the end of the book of Esther we find the answer to the problem-the King gives the Jews to go out killing their enemies themselves.

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Nelson Robison

posted March 16, 2008 at 12:12 pm

My Grandfather(my father’s father) was a German Orthodox Jew, in the early 1930’s he married my Grandmother, an Irish Catholic woman. His family declared him dead, but I want to learn about my heritage, a part of me is missing and I am no whole. The fact that people use the internet for the purpose of spreading lies and untruths about Israel and the Jewish people does not make the internet evil, the ideas of the anti-semitical thinkers are evil. No one deserves to be hated just because of their heritage, the very idea that because a person is of this or that religion, they are evil or going to be a person who will hate another is ludicrous and inane. We all, must stand together against the idea that one or another is hated because of religion, skin color, heritage or any other label that may be attached to them for any reason. I will learn who my family is if it takes the rest of my life to do it, it is a part of me that needs to know the past so that I can teach my children about the future. I, will not bow down to the gods of secularism for any reason, I am a person of conscience and faith. The Covenant, shows me that if I stand for G-d, G-d will stand for me. I will always stand against anti-semitism in any form, I, will stand against injustice wherever I see it. No one is going to change my mind that life is not valuable and that growth cannot happen. But these things will not happen unless we open our hearts to the truth and see that we are all one.

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